A Long History

Rise of Spiritualism

Industrial Revolution

Industrialism and Ghosts

Post-bellum America

Supernatural and Hope

Supernatural Restores Faith

Ghosts Build Communities

Comfort to Bereaved

Why the Supernatural was Entertaining

Transcending the Real

Ghosts and Mystery

Ghosts and Thrills

Entertainers Cash In

Laughing at Ghosts 

Anthony Hopper






















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Why Were Americans Interested in the Supernatural?

Comfort to the Bereaved (con.)

A picture "that was taken by William Hope of a Mrs. Longcake and what was alleged to be her deceased sister in law." It is located in Troy Taylor, “Spirit Photography: Its Strange and Controversial History,” The Haunted Museum website: http://www.prairieghosts.com/ph_history.html (accessed 7/27/04).. A first hand account of one of these meetings showed how powerful this need was:

The spirit beckons to some one; and a series of enquiries by the various members of the audience, ‘It is me?’ Is it me?’ presently shows that a young man is wanted who goes forward nearly to the curtain and is whispered to, embraced, and very audibly kissed... (7).

Americans’ desire to maintain emotional and physical bonds motivated them to purchase spirit photographs like the one pictured on the right, which supposedly captured the images of their deceased loved ones (8). They most likely tried a variety of other methods as well, such as ouija boards, for communicating with dead relatives and friends.

Regardless of the methods used, many Americans living in the second half of the 19th and the early part of the 20th centuries adhered to a belief in the supernatural world because it gave them assurances that their loved ones still existed in some form. In addition, the living held out hope that their friends and relatives were still by their side, albeit in spiritual form, guiding them and caring for them.






Last update 

September 8, 2004










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